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Housetops“Jesus said to the Twelve:’Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father'” (Matthew 10:26-33).
 
Throughout the history of our Church, faithful believers have followed Christ in their refusal to sacrifice the truth in order to protect their own lives. In the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, a consequence of her unwavering faith and courage. St. Thomas More was beheaded for his unbending loyalty to the Holy Father’s judgment against King Henry VIII. In our own times, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Voice of the Voiceless in San Salvador, was assassinated at liturgy for his courage against an evil and unjust military government.
 
These martyrs truly lived this gospel. Their human fear of bodily harm did not govern their lives. Truth, justice, their personal integrity, and the care of their souls were their real priorities. Surely these martyrs and many, many others through the centuries acknowledged Christ, confident that Christ would acknowledge them before God.
 
Jesus assures his apostles that they truly have nothing to fear. He uses wonderful imagery to explain the intensity of God’s love and care for each one of us. Our Creator’s total and unending concern for all creation assures us of our place within the heart of God. The Lord’s love for each one of us is greater, more intimate than even the love parents have for their children. In return for this incredible gift of loving care, we are simply asked to fear not, to trust, and to acknowledge before the world that our God is the God of love.
 
-How do you respond to the belief that God knows you with the great intimacy of “counting every hair”?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store.

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Bread_ofLife_Kennedy_A_Paizs“Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.’” (John 6:51-58)
 
Speaking of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI said, “We ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host. And let us pray the Lord to help us become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the world, in adoration of God, beginning with ourselves. That our lives may speak of God, that our lives may be a true liturgy, an announcement of God, a door through which the distant God may become the present God, and a true giving of ourselves to God.” (Homily, July 24, 2009).
 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French paleontologist, geologist, and Jesuit priest who worked extensively in China in the early twentieth century. Initially his scientifically-informed lectures and writings on original sin and the nature of the Eucharist were misunderstood by the Roman Curia, to the point where they were censored. Today we know that to these ideas of Teilhard de Chardin are not heretical; this revised view is not least due to Pope Benedict XVI’s acceptance and appreciation for Teilhard’s thought in these areas, as exemplified above.
 
It is eye-opening to realize that our actions, but especially our acceptance and love of the Eucharist, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI, allow us to play a part in not only the transformation of ourselves but in giving the universe back to God. Just as it must have been difficult for Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to face rejection upon presenting concepts toward which God had led him, it must have been difficult for Jesus to offer such an amazing life-giving gift only to hear the following directly afterward: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” We may have reacted in a similar way; perhaps we still do. Therefore, let us commit to learning more about the Eucharist, but, especially, to spending time in eucharistic adoration so that which we cannot understand mentally is instead illuminated by intimacy—like that which we receive from any special relationship—but which is most readily available in our relationship with Christ.
 
Matt is a past summer intern for RENEW’s Publications and Resources team.

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ramadanI must admit that I felt a little presumptuous breaking the Ramadan fast when I hadn’t been fasting in the first place.
 
But my wife and I had been invited to attend a catered dinner in a firehouse banquet hall where the local Muslim community was gathering to break their fast.
 
The invitation had come from a member of that community who earlier had accepted my invitation to speak to a parents group at my parish.
 
This is as it should be: Muslims and Christians treating each other not only as fellow human beings, but even as friends.
 
The negative attitude that many people have about Muslims in general results from associating all Muslims with the Islamic terrorists who have attacked the World Trade Center and killed innocent people in suicide bombings and other atrocious acts here and abroad.
 
That attitude also extends to the broad assumption that all Muslim people think alike, whereas the empirical evidence, as well as common sense, suggests otherwise.
 
There are more than 1.6 billion Muslim people in the world, about 80 percent of whom do not live in the Middle East or North Africa.
 
Like the 2.4 billion or so Christians in the world, a group that size will represent every possible shade of religious, philosophical, and political thought.
 
It’s a complex subject, and some very recent data on it is available on the web site of the Pew Research Center in a report titled “Muslims and Islam: Key Findings in the U.S. and Around the World.”
 
Whatever we learn about the world Muslim population as a whole, we are more likely than ever to encounter individual Muslim men and women in our communities, schools, and workplaces, and it is imprudent to jump to conclusions about them.
 
It should be obvious that simply shunning folks simply because they are Muslim is not consistent with the Gospel. Beyond that, those we sometime read about who yank hijabs from Muslim women’s heads or publicly urge Muslims—or people they mistake for Muslims—to “go back where you came from” may be expressing an understandable rage or fear, but they are also aggravating rather than mitigating tensions, and doing so based on inadequate information and understanding.
 
The Catholic Church in the United States is active in movements to counteract such ideas and behavior and increase productive interaction between Christians and Muslims.
 
These movements are not ethereal exercises; they are important steps toward building a better society and a better world.
 
At a recent two-day Christian-Muslim dialogue, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego expressed the urgency of this matter, saying, “The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. It depends on love of the one God and love of neighbor.”
 
Bishop McElroy, who co-chairs a West Coast Catholic-Muslim dialogue sponsored by the national conference of bishops, emphasized that the parties must acknowledge the substantial differences in their religious doctrines and, at the same time, foster “an overriding sense of friendship.”
 
And, the bishop said, those who participate in such dialogues must relate their discussions to the faith communities they represent.
 
“It does little pastoral good,” he said, “for a national dialogue to focus on theological themes if the pastoral life of our members is not affected.”
 
As Christian and Muslim leaders carry on these discussions on our behalf, we can follow the results of their dialogue with open minds and, meanwhile, treat our Muslim neighbors with the equanimity Jesus would expect of us.
 

In 2017, Ramadan ends in the evening of Saturday, June 24.

 
This post was originally published in The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey. Deacon Paolino is managing editor at RENEW International.

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“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
 
Trinity Sunday celebrates the mystery we reaffirm every time we make the sign of the cross, recite the creed, or attend a baptism. This teaching is drawn from many texts in which Jesus reveals the actions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today’s gospel reading, extracted from Jesus’ instruction on baptism, focuses on the Father’s supreme act of divine love.
 
To better understand this passage, it is helpful to look at its context. Jesus was speaking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. In the Jewish community of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were the accepted religious authority. Some of them opposed Jesus and his values so, for fear of offending this particular group, Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly in the night. Nicodemus opened his mind to a new understanding of religion that clashed with the Pharisees’ priorities, but he found a way to escape the domination of the “in crowd.”
 
Where do we see Nicodemus in our community? When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that we too can be controlled by peer pressure and political correctness. Perhaps we pretend that we have given up religious practice because we’re “too mature,” “too sophisticated,” or “too smart” for such things. Only in secret do we admit that we’ve stopped attending Sunday Mass for fear of friends’ ridicule or because we are simply too lazy. But Nicodemus gives us hope. Strengthened by his new faith, as we see through his later appearances in the Gospels, he became a follower of Jesus.
 
Jesus spoke of a divine love that in dying bestows eternal life. By eternal life, Jesus meant not just life that will go on after death but the fullness of life now, a life in God that cannot be terminated by death. When Jesus made clear to this fearful man—and to each of us—the soft truth that the Father loves even the unlovable, he also implied the hard truth that Christians must love their enemies. Jesus’ final words offer an even greater challenge: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Condemning is easy, but God gives us a greater challenge: to love the world enough to change it.
 
– How do you allow outside influences to prevent you from fully living your faith?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’” (John 20:19-23).
 
In John’s Gospel, the silent, reassuring way Jesus came into the room was much like the way he comes into our hearts. This quiet scene is rich with both literal and symbolic significance. The locked door reveals that Jesus’ glorified body was different, uninhibited by the limitations of earthly bodies. Even more significant is God’s entrance into a heart locked by fear, prejudice, or unpleasant memories. When Jesus—without fanfare—simply stood in the midst of his frightened disciples, it suggested that from then on, his real presence would be found in the community of believers. Finally, with the symbolic gesture of breathing, Jesus signaled the infusion of an even more intense presence and power, the life-giving breath of the Spirit.
 
Since this scene took place on the Sunday evening of the Resurrection, Jesus’ first concern was to convince his startled audience that they were not seeing things. To prove that he was indeed the same person they saw nailed to the cross, he showed them his wounds. Jesus offers us the same proof of his presence by showing us the wounds all around us, not just on battlefields or in hospitals but in slums and prisons, and even in our own living rooms. Recognizing Jesus in the wounded and serving him there opens the community to receive all that he wants to give when he repeats the powerful word, “Peace.”
 
Jesus commissioned them and fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower them in their work. Then, the first thing Jesus told them to do with their new power was to forgive. Forgiveness opens the door to peace. Forgiveness liberates the one who forgives as well as the one forgiven. Even more, the human act of forgiveness releases the power of the Spirit into the community. Think of the power of John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin; Nelson Mandela working for reconciliation with the very people who had imprisoned him; or the Amish of Pennsylvania reaching out in forgiveness to the family of the man who had killed a number of their young girls. Forgiveness has the power to transform our lives if we allow the Spirit to work. Imagine how different the history of the world would be, how different our daily headlines would be, if we acted out the Pentecost Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit of forgiveness. Open the door to peace.”
 
– Who in your life are you called to forgive, and from whom do you need to seek forgiveness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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